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I tried to sell my GF a GLOCK 42 for Christmas. After safety checking the gun, we discovered that racking the slide was a major issue. Due to her diminutive size and a recoil spring stiffer than James Bond’s martini, Rhonda found that racking the 42’s slide reliably and effectively meant turning the gun sideways, bringing the gun into her body and pushing the frame down as she pulled the slide back. To do that on a gun range safely — keeping the muzzle pointed downrange — she’d have to turn her body sideways as well. And, of course, keep her finger off the trigger. And then there was the problem with . . .

the slide stop. Rhonda’s left handed; the 42’s fiddly little slide stop lives on the left side. So locking back the slide required more finger finagling. In fact, she had to switch hands.

To do that on a range, well, I’ve watched inexperienced, poorly trained people at gun ranges trying to clear their semi-automatic firearm. The muzzle goes everywhere. Racking hand in front of the muzzle? Seen it. Finger on the trigger? That too.

Long story short, we ditched the 42. Rhonda bought a Ruger LCR (a TTAG five-star gun). It’s much safer – at least until she gets to grips with an easier-to-use semi, and master the manual of arms. She’s saving up for the bigger, badder Walthar PPQ, with its ambidextrous slide stop and easy racking slide.

Other suggestions? And whaddayathink? Revolvers for newbies?

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  1. Go buy her a small revolver. My wife has arthritis and peripheral neuropathy and can’t rack a slide either. Get her something she can use safely.

  2. Here’s some lefty slide locking advice:

    * Get a solid slingshot style grip on the rear of the slide with the right hand.
    * Move the web of the left hand an inch or so down the backstrap towards the magwell.
    * Tilt the left hand so that the index finger is under the slide stop lever.
    * Rack the slide by pulling with the right hand and pushing with the left.
    * Place pressure on the bottom of the slide stop lever while it moves up into position.
    * Slowly move the slide forward to lock it open.

    I also recommend practicing the magazine release with the left index finger and using the slingshot (or overhand) technique to release the slide from slide lock.

  3. Yeah, I’m going to take my mom gun shopping next week. She’s in her 80s and has arthritic hands. I’m thinking LCR too. We might try the PPQ if the slide is as easy as you say, but she’s not used to handguns, much less semi-auto. She’s shot a lot of birds with her Remington 1100, but hasn’t used that in years. Mom’s right-handed, so that’s not an issue.

    • If it’s for home defense, consider the 3″ LCR. A little more weight will soften the recoil. The rear sight should be better than the grooved on the standard LCR, and the front ramp can be painted or swapped for a fiber optic for better visibility. If your mom is going to home carry, then stick with the snubbed nose LCR. It’s my home carry choice and so light and compact you amost forget it’s there.

      • HA! I KNEW I’d seen an ad for a 3″ LCR! My lgs (small) hadn’t heard of it. Back in the day, I got my bride a Sig P230, She did not deal well with the slide or loading the magazine. I didn’t really care, I loaded it and dropped the hammer, after which all she needed to do was pull the trigger, DA once and then SA (no safety). Working at it, she could drop the hammer. Better than being unarmed. Not everyone you love needs to be an operating operator.

  4. Robert was both patient and thorough when he trained me to shoot (an ongoing project, to be certain). The revolver he chose to replace the Glock 42 is perfect and, even as a puny lefty, I can use it confidently, which makes me feel safer because I know I will not be fumbling with it in a way that could result in possibly not adhering to one of those four rules. If I’m going to own a gun, I sure as hell want to know I am capable of operating it correctly.

    Thank you, Robert, for your patience and your thoughtfulness. You’re a prince, but don’t worry; I won’t tell anyone. 😉

    • Walther’s PK380 is a pussycat. Their CCP, my review of which goes live on here Saturday morn, is a 9mm with a super easy to rack slide, slim grip, and fairly soft recoil. Ruger SR9 including the compact and 9E version are also worth trying.

      • No doubt the pk380 has a very easy slide to rack. I actually like that gun quite a bit. Have yet to shoot one but after handling a few I was very tempted to get one for my lady. I got a Makarov .380 and she adopted it so oh well looks like she at least found something she enjoys shooting and carrying haha.

      • I agree. The walther PK380 is much better advice than jumping on the revolver bandwagon like the author.

        Assuming it is easier for a woman to handle a SMALL revolver with 12lb+ trigger is naive and irresponsible and I hear it way too often from those at the LGS. It is idiotic to think small women should by small handguns (with pink grip inserts). Albeit important to have a firearm you can comfortable grip, it’s just as important to have one that you can comfortably and accurately shoot – and that usually means larger weapons. If we can’t rely on the NYPD to competently and accurately use a 12lb trigger, how can you recommend one to a soccer mom?
        I know several guys who bought LCR’s for their girlfriends/wives. Every one of them were later sold because of issues pulling the trigger – i mean the guns were sold, not the wives.

    • With all the suggestions here, Rhonda, remember that revolver won’t jam, either, and if you got the hammerless persuasion, you can fire it through a concealment purse (IOW without drawing) until it is empty without worrying about a jam. Try that with ANY semi. Revolvers are good. Yeah, I carry a semi, but just sayin’…

      • No offense, Larry, but revolvers jam. The myth about them never stopping while semi-autos are riding a razor’s edge of functionality is just that — a myth. There are many reasons for a revolver to seize up, and even though I’m not around revolvers as much as other things I’ve seen it myself on at least two occasions. They just might be more reliable as a general rule and less ammo-picky as a general rule, but they do suffer stoppages and they’re generally harder to get back into the game when they do.

        • I’m afraid I’d have to see that. I have had a couple of stoppages, but they were due to heavy .357 handloads without adequate crimp (IOW, my fault), after 3 or 4 rounds the remaining bullets had walked out of the case due to recoil and blocked the rotation of the cylinder. Other than that, I have never seen a revolver jam, and have seen DOZENS of semi jams from all manner of silliness down to the most ridiculous I’ve heard (most popular with Glocks), that I wasn’t holding it right. I mean, really. I was holding it right enough for any revolver and most semis, problem can’t be with a Glock, you must not be holding it right. And somebody thinks I will bet my life on that firearm?

        • “They just might be more reliable as a general rule and less ammo-picky as a general rule” THAT right there is funny. I love to see anyone trying to push the “revolvers are unreliable” meme. Just comical as can be. Thanks for the laugh.

      • Now see, LiTX, this is why the Glock Brand Glock fan boys have such a problem with you! You refuse to accept their “reality” that Glock Brand Glocks are the most perfectest creation of the human race. I bet your house gets TPed every Halloween, with Glock Brand Glock toilet paper, doesn’t it?!?!?

  5. Do they still make the round but 3 inch model 10? I think for a person with hand issues it would be a better revolver than a j frame.

    I’ve never used one of those LCRs. Have to see if they have one at the rental range.

      • I think those who have fired one have little use for the .357 LCR, it just hurts too much. If you are only going to fire .38s, just buy the .38. My wife’s S&W Airweight with +P ammo is OMG painful, better was Lehigh ammo, but she tried it first, acknowledged that it really hurt, but said that was fine, she intended to carry it, not shoot it, and if she needed it the hurt wouldn’t matter.

        BTW, I’m thinking Magnaporting normally starts with a longer barrel than 3″.

  6. The answer is H&K VP9. My wife has arthritis that made it not possible for her to track the slide on my FNS9.
    But she has no problem with the VP9. The VP9 also has ambidextrous controls.
    She can track the slide straight arm very easily. The small tabs on the rear ends of the slide make gripping the slide a breeze.
    Is estimate the rack slide takes half the effort of my FNS9.

  7. I understand if you are missing fingers on your right hand but what is the deal with all the lefties bitching about right handed guns? Learn to fricken shoot right handed! I bet you eat with your left hand but if you had to stuff your pie hole right handed, you wouldn’t go hungry. My God people! Point the gun. Line up the sights under an eye…either eye, it doesn’t matter. Pull the trigger. Simple. So simple a left handed person can do it.

    • I carry a Ruger SR1911 as my EDC. I’m left-handed and left-eye dominant. I haven’t put an ambidextrous safety on it, nor have I investigated an ambi slide release (I think I remember seeing something funky like that somewhere, once). I find that I can drop a mag, reload, and release the slide, all with the index finger of my shooting hand. I also practice sweeping the safety when I draw, although I’m fairly adept at thumb-sweeping while in-battery as well. It’s all in how you solve the problem, Michael. If you’re left-handed AND left-eye dominant, shooting with your right hand is going to result in some seriously fubar’ed body mechanics as you attempt to line up the sights with your dominant eye.

      • Eye dominance is overrated. I shoot right handed and I am left eye dominant but guess what? I line up my sights with my right eye. You know why? My right eye is not dominant but it ain’t blind either. I also shoot with both eyes open and I look at the target, not the front sight. I see the sight picture just fine. Are the sights a little out of focus? Yeah, so what? Two slightly blurry sights perfectly aligned are just a good as one blurry sight lined up with one clear sight lined up with a blurry target.
        Left handed shooter’s comment all the time as if their right hand is paralyzed or something. It’s not like trying to play golf with opposite handed clubs. Golf is difficult enough already. But shooting a pistol is not that hard guys! Line everything up and keep it there through trigger squeeze. Both eyes and both hands work identically.

        • So you’re a firearms god, with truly spartan-like physical prowess, much better than us lesser mortals – we get it, man 🙂 I can’t even manage to keep all my rounds in one ragged hole at 25yrds with my EDC – guess I should just give up now, huh? 😉

          YOUR eye dominance isn’t an issue for YOU – doesn’t mean that mine is the same – we’re different, buddy – no matter what you say, we’re STILL going to be different. Relax – it’ll be alright.

        • I spent most of my life able to focus sharply on the rear sight, front sight, and target 50 yards distant all at the same time, with either eye, never understood what “focus on the front sight” even meant. Now the target is easy but I can’t tell whether a handgun even HAS sights! No whining, buy a laser. Works good, lasts a long time. One size does not fit all, figure out your own needs and adjust to them, while not claiming others need to use your personal method.

        • I’m not asking anyone to use my personal method. I am just sharing my experience to help you understand why I don’t put much faith in the “dominant eye” myth when it comes to aiming a pistol.

      • Paul Gomez, Hicock45 and maybe Rob Pincus have covered that. No matter what hand the gun is in, when you bring the gun up in front of your chest during your draw stroke, before you punch it out, just being it up under your dominant eye. I did try it with my left hand (I’m right eye dominant) and even in my right hand forcing use of my left eye, and in my experience the details just work themselves out.

        The Paul Gomez video should be easy to find on YouTube.

    • Actually, us lefties are so dumb, gun manufacturers should design all guns for lefties, the lowest common denominator. Then we won’t complain and neither will the righties, since it’s apparently easy enough to draw and shoot with the weak hand.

    • There can be a real difference in grip strength between dominant and non-dominant hands, and even if you can shoot with your non-dominant hand the slide stop is a whole different story. I’m a small woman like the GF in the story and I find it hard to engage safety stops with my dominant hand, let alone my non-dominant hand. They can be pretty difficult.

      • Get a Glock and don’t mess with safeties. You rarely need a slide lock, but if you do, use your index finger on your ring finger of your right hand as you use an overhand grip on the slide like in the video, lust pull up on the slide catch. The negativity on this post is not helpful. Practice people. You can do it!

        • And NOW we know why he’s making the comments he’s making. Gaston made a wonderful tool, and if it fits you, you have an amazing offensive/defensive device – one of the best ever made. If, however, it doesn’t suit you… well… let’s just say that fans of Gaston’s Plastic Fantastic have a tendency to be a bit rabid about it, and assume in their superiority that the fault is YOU, not the weapon in question. Of course, 1911 fans are exactly the same, if not usually more-so. Kind of reminds me of the iPhone fanboys versus the Android crowd, when you think about it.

        • Okay, then get an M&P 9 without the safety. I don’t think Glocks are the best or only suitable gun for defense but I wasn’t the one complaining that I can’t operate a safety. I just offered a solution.

        • Fine, practice until you get it–and eliminate limp-wristing, too, for that matter. But in the meantime, it’s nice to have something you can use consistently when your life depends on it.

        • Looks to me like you could use that device even while “Typing with one hand” at the keyboard…


        • My point remains the same–in the meantime, have something you can use, not what your operationally-operating boyfriend or nephew or whoever thinks you ought to be able to use.

    • Why would we waste time learning to shoot primarily with our right hands? The fine motor control of handgun manipulation is much easier with the strong hand. We’ve been adjusting to your world (and surpassing you righties in it) for centuries. And we’ll keep doing it.

      And I don’t see any lefties here complaining. All I see is RF pointing out some issues a shooter is having and people offering suggestions.

      • ” And then there was the problem with . . .
        the slide stop. Rhonda’s left handed; the 42’s fiddly little slide stop lives on the left side. So locking back the slide required more finger finagling. In fact, she had to switch hands.”

        ” If you’re left-handed AND left-eye dominant, shooting with your right hand is going to result in some seriously fubar’ed body mechanics as you attempt to line up the sights with your dominant eye.”
        JackinAlabama (failed to mention all the left handed right eye dominant people)

        “There can be a real difference in grip strength between dominant and non-dominant hands”
        Amanda (failed to mention that your dominant hand might be weaker in grip strength. Dominance is more a matter of coordination than strength. Also failed to realize that your grip is more important on the slide which is done with your non shooting hand)

        Those are a few on here but I was referring to firearms blogs in general and particularly when rifles are discussed.
        The guy in the video above does not have a trigger finger on his right hand so he shoots lefty…with right handed guns. Don’t hear him complaining.

        And finally, your statement:
        “Why would we waste time learning to shoot primarily with our right hands? The fine motor control of handgun manipulation is much easier with the strong hand. We’ve been adjusting to your world (and surpassing you righties in it) for centuries. And we’ll keep doing it.”

        Its not a waste of time if you have a tool designed for the right hand.
        You manipulate handguns with both hands, and I disagree that it is fine motor skills. You aren’t painting a Picasso. You are pointing it and pulling the trigger. Have you ever pointed to something with your “weak” hand? I bet you were right on target.
        And the last part of your statement contradicts your claim that you struggle in a right handed world. Adjust and surpass is what I encourage. Good job!

    • I am right handed, but have a nasty astigmatism in my right eye. Everything at all ranges is blurry. I literally cannot shoot right handed unless guided by a laser and a seeing eye dog if my left eye were to be injured. Your one size fits all mentality could use some real world application experience. I had the same opinion of lefties and computer mice, until I realized that for them, using a mouse with their right hand is akin to learning to walk again.

      • I don’t have a one size fits all mentality. .I am just saying that people are looking for the tool to do everything for them rather than learn to use it. You have had to adapt to using your other hand and eye. That is my point. It can be done.

    • I’m Left handed but shoot right handed. Guys who taught me to shoot were all right handed. it is awkward to shoot left handed but do practice “off hand” shooting for that “just in case” thing

      • Thanks for that TXGal! Finally someone here not accusing me of being sinistrophobic.
        Do you own left handed scissors? I hate those things. Before those were invented, I guess lefties never cut paper. When I was in Elementary School, I got hold of some of them and complained that they were not sharp enough. The teacher said they were left handed. So instead of pushing with the thumb and pulling with the fingers, I got them to cut by pulling with the thumb and pushing with the fingers. They worked even in my right hand. I guess that makes me a “scissors God”.

      • TejasChica, I have always trained to work weapons with off hand, and one handed. Out in the world you NEVER know what is going to happen.

    • I like that Tomcat, the tip-up is nice. OTOH, .38 Spl v .32 ACP…always a trade-off somewhere. Or does the Tomcat come in .380 too? Truthfully, tho, I think the LCR will serve the lady’s purposes admirably.

  8. My wife had the same problem – arthritic hands, weak hand strength – she CAN rack a slide, but there’s more to the manual of arms than just loading the thing… “tap rack bang” anyone? I took her to an LGS where they laid out all their revolvers for her – think there was a baker’s dozen! Turns out the one with which she felt the most comfort was a used Security Six, in stainless, with the 3″ (yeah, I know, but I forget the exact length) barrel. It also (seriously) had the best trigger, which really surprised me. Had the Hogue hard vinyl monogrip, which I replaced with the soft version, and she loves it.

    So, she carries a serious piece of stainless in her “grandma purse”, but she’s wicked accurate with it, even when she’s shooting full-house .357 JHPs. Don’t denigrate the wheel-gun crowd, guys – not everyone needs or wants to put in the time to get comfortable & accurate with YOUR particular gun – just be glad they recognize the need to be armed and capable of fending for themselves when needs be!

  9. There is a specific technique for racking slides. I had to teach a friend who is a reasonably fit man of 200 pounds. Before I described the technique, he was really struggling.

    In a nutshell here is the technique:
    (1) Grasp rear of slide firmly between fingers and palm of weak hand.
    (2) Push the gun forward with your strong hand while trying to prevent the slide from moving with your weak hand.

    While this technique is immensely helpful, it doesn’t address the problem of a slide lock release — especially on the wrong side of the pistol for a lefty.

    A small revolver in .38 Special is probably the way to go for someone who struggles with the slide lock release or racking the slide in the first place.

    • I’m wit’ ya on that one. It’s not necessarily just the ladies, either, as I gather you know. Saw a really frail looking older gentleman at Collector’s Firearms in Houston asking about semi autos, fortunately the clerk was responsible enough to explore the possibility of a revolver with him.

    • Word. I saw the original version of the article and wondered why it was so hard to rack a Glock 42. It’s a tiny gun, tiny cartridge, with a weak recoil spring (relative to heavier 9mm, .40, .45, 10mm springs). Decent form solves a lot of problems, as mentioned now in the YouTube vid.

      My wife can rack her Sig 227 that only has a few hundred rounds through it – provided she use decent technique. She’s 5’1 and has a slim build.

      Of course arthritis and other health issues create a whole new set of problems. I don’t have much experience with shooters who have severe grip issues.

  10. My wife’s problem (and I will note something I see a lot when I take women or really new shooters out) when shooting my semi-autos is that she shimmies her hand down grip so that she can wrap all 4 fingers around the grip but in the process actually gives less leverage by moving her hand further away from the slide rather than keeping a normal grip with the bottom three fingers on the grip and getting the web of her hand as high up under the slide as possible. We are working on it.

    Getting a good grip on the slide is key two areas where Glocks fall short in my mind, and would say is more important than recoil spring weight, the finish is a little slick and the serrations aren’t very deep. The PPQ, XDM, M&P, and especially the VP9 shine as they have good aggressive deep serrations that sink into your hand when racking the slide and the finish at least on the XDM and PPQ is a bit flatter and feels less slippery in the hand.

    • New shooters are usually nervous too and that can cause sweaty palms. Grip tape on the slide is a good idea for that. I don’t think strength is as big an issue as grip. Strong hands can slip.

  11. how about a “tip-up” barrel pistol like I’ve seen on a .22 beretta? you get almost all the same “manual of arms” as any other semi-auto without having to rack the slide.

  12. after buying my wife four small .380 autos, she finally got the ruger LC 380, which had the easiest slide spring of all . s and w bg380, kahr cw380, bersa thunder 380, forgot which the fourth one was. but the LC 380 will rack with just two fingers.

  13. I would suggest the Sig P938. I had the same issue with my wife. When she got her CCL I thought the Kahr CM9 would be perfect for her however, she couldn’t work the slide. A friend suggested the P938. Took her to an indoor range and was able to rent one before buying. She liked the way it fit her hand, could operate it without issue and she shot it accurately. I also appreciated the manual safety as she often carries in her purse. Found one at Palmetto State Armory for a very reasonable price.

  14. My petite wife has a hard time racking my 1911, but can perform a manual of arms with her unmodded M&P9 easily.

  15. Get a Taurus TCP. 5 and half lb. trigger. I THOUGHT it EZ to rack the slide. Last round hold open. Ran great too. Wish I still had it. And Jeremy likes it too…

  16. Looks like the dude in the video has had first hand experience of a neg discharge from dangerously racking the slide based on the fact he only has 9 fingers.

  17. it is all about technique not strength.
    Grip the slide firmly with the left hand then push the frame forward with the right. Keep the left arm ridged. Works fine for my wife.

  18. In addition to something that ain’t a GLOCK brand GLOCK, li’l Rhonda might need a new boyfriend.

    Tried to sell her a GLOCK 42 for Christmas? What in Blue Hell…?!?

    Unless y’all meant to say “… sell her on a GLOCK 42 …”

  19. Anyone who needs 6 minutes, 28 seconds to explain how to rack a slide should turn off his camera and do something else with his spare time.

    It ain’t that friggin’ complicated.

  20. Revolver. Just that simple. I know several people with severe arthritis and some with fibromyalgia who have had to switch to revolvers. Hell, an older friend of mine bought a Ruger LCP and could not reliably work the slide to cock it. He tried it in the store and I believe it was already cocked so he thought the slide was rather easy, he did not pull the trigger in the store and try it again. Got it home and took it out to fire and could not rack it to load a round, he thought he had broken it and called me. I racked it and fired just fine, he finished that mag and put the other one in and same thing. His fingers would slip off the slide. I made sure he was not engaging the safety and he tried again with same result. His finger strength was not sufficient to cock it. Took it back and picked up a nice snubbie revolver.

  21. An alternative to the technique in this video is to grab the slide closer to the front sight (while not dangerously close) and place your thumb down and flat against the side of the slide. This increases the amount of surface area that is in contact with the slide and gives you the grip-strength benefit of the opposable thumb. Notice that his right thumb in that video provides almost no utility.

    Most pistols do not have grip serrations in front of the ejection port, however, and Glocks are very slick in that area.

  22. I’m left handed. My wife is left handed, I’ve carried mouse guns since the early 90s. I’m a pistol instructor who has taught a couple of hundred people to shoot and have seen the difficulties people have.

    With that said, the problem is most likely technique. The recoil spring on the Glock is nowhere near as stiff as the spring on a Seecamp, LCP, P3AT or the Kahr twins P380/CW380. Not even close. The trick is technique. First up is the use of an overhand grip, not a slingshot grip. The next step is to get the gun out in front of you and use the large muscles of the arm to push the gun forward against a stationary slide.

    This works 95% of the time. It worked well enough for my 5’1″ wife to be able to use every semi auto I own, including the Kahr P9, and P380 which have the stiffest recoil springs of anything I own, including the G42.

    Turning your body sideways IS necessary for both of us to lock the slide back on any semi-auto other than one of my 1911s, and even then its only the ones with big paddle style slide locks. The bottom line is that any left handed shooter NEEDS to make it INSTINCTIVE to turn their body 90 degrees to the line of fire if that is what they find makes it easiest to lock the slide back.

    The secret is to simply move slowly and deliberately until it becomes a habit.

    At the Walls of Steel match in RI last year, I actually felt a twinge of pride when my wife appeared to turn her back on the RO when instructed to “unload and show clear”. She bladed her body to the backstop, locked the slide back on her G34 and then extended her arm to show the RO an empty chamber.


  23. Durn the military/industrial/congressional complex for not have built left-handed M551’s, M60A1/3, M1/A1’s for my use. Had to do tank stuff backwards, but no heels.

  24. After my wife cussed her LCP up one end and down the other over her trouble racking the slide (as well as it beating the hell out of her hand) , we determined the best solution was a Sig P238. She loves that gun more than me 🙂

  25. I was actually thinking about this the other day. I was back home during the Holidays, and took my mother and brother to the local range. She is relatively new, and we rented a Ruger SR-9 (I believe it was that model). Anyways, my younger brother shot fine, even better than me on some targets, but my mother struggled with not just racking the slide but even loading bullets into the magazine. I was thinking a revolver would be better for her, but we didn’t have time to explore that option.

    She also had issues with limp-wrist, but that’s another issue that would be resolved with revolvers I believe.

    • Loading mags is easily solved with an UpLula mag loader. I have carpal tunnel and have a very difficult time even loading the first round into a mag. They’re a godsend for older shooters or anyone with hand issues.

      I had a Ruger LCR .38sp for a few months. I loved that little revolver, but it hurt badly to shoot it. I couldn’t do more than 5-10 rounds in one range session. I ended up selling it. I have a 9mm Shield and a M&P 9FS. Same manual of arms for both, and I’m very happy with them.

  26. Understand, lefties need to shoot with both hands like right hand can, great, solves problems. Yeah right, that’s why there are LH scissors. Now RH people can use lefty ones they are great at it. It all can be done, but let’s try to aid the left ones. It’s not just guns, try golf clubs and etc. just harder to find the equipment you want to purchase! Keep safe out there, and always watch your six.

  27. I have the same problem with my LCP, being older my skin is thin and fingers slide over the small serrations very painful, I can grip, it’s those darn serrations, needed are the type on the original 1911’s.. I fixed this by using a grip type tape than really helped me 100%.


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